Friday, December 19, 2008

Sardines, Charades and Eurotrash... Wow, I'm Gonna Miss This Place

Today is my final day in this wonderful place called Scotland. I'm terribly sad to be leaving the amazing people and places I've come to love. My room is empty apart from two massively overstuffed suitcases and two equally overstuffed carry-on bags. But before I get too sentimental and start crying allow me to update you on the past few days.

Monday: I turned in the last of my exams and I had lunch with my closest group of friends that night. Kara and I ventured to the Christmas Market to say goodbye to one of the girls who was leaving early on Tuesday morning. After that I went back to Kara's and we talked for a while. I then returned to my room and promptly fell asleep.

Tuesday: We spent the day shopping in Glasgow. Nothing very exciting happened but when we got back we went for a pint at the pub to de-stress about all the money we spent on Christmas presents.

Wednesday: We held our final potluck at Kara's and we actually didn't have a theme, meaning we had an varied assortment of foods (chicken fried rice, spaghetti bolognese, celery and carrots with hummus dip). We all chatted for a while and then decided to play a game of charades. I opted for the position of overseer which is probably more fun than actually playing because you know what people are trying to act out and hilarity surely ensues. I have to say that while the Brits were pretty good at guessing the answer, they were pretty shabby when it came to their silent acting skills. I was slightly disappointed. When the game finally ended we opted for a few games of "spoons." The best part was probably the banter that went on between the remaining players and Sarah's primal screams when she dove to grab a spoon. We sat around chatting for a while and then came up with the brilliant idea of playing a immense game of "sardines" outside. We agreed on the perimeters of the playing grounds (which was quite expansive) and the started the first round. The first guy hid himself so well that we got really frustrated and then almost gave up. Then, miraculously, Maggie found him (and I happened to be with her) and then the game was fun again. After another round, which included some minor injuries and many strange looks from people not participating in our little game, we went to a pub for a round of drinks. We sat and chatted until the pub closed and then it was time to say goodbye to our British friends (and one American). There were tears... lots of tears. I sadly returned to my room a short while later and basically cried myself to sleep.

Thursday: Yesterday I packed up almost all of my stuff during the day. That night we decided to dress up and go out. Our theme: Eurotrash. Yes, we donned the loudest clothes and makeup, teased our hair to new heights and danced like crazy people the whole night long. I honestly don't know how girls dress/look like that on a daily basis. The maintenence is so stressful and time consuming! We went to Vodka Rev and watched some seriously interesting dance moves. Overall, we had a marvelous time.

Friday (today), so far: I finished up the last bit of my packing and now I'm getting ready to go to Kara's flat for our final night together.

Since I haven't left yet I'm not going to get all sentimental and nostalgic about this semester right now. I will do that in the airport or when I finally get home. But for now I will say that my semester in Scotland might have just been some of the best four months of my life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twas The Night Of Naughty Knickers

Sunday is here. That means there's less than a week left for me in this fabulous city and country. Today I finished up the last of my final exams and I'll be happily turning them in tomorrow. This guarantees me a few solid days to get all my stuff together and actually do some touristy stuff around this wonderful city that I've lived in for the last four months! I haven't gone to the castle, climbed Arthur's Seat (though I did climb the crags) or even been to any of the monuments! I have to go to the castle at the very least because its iconic... and its all decked out for Christmas.

Allow me to fill you in on recent events. Wednesday was our penultimate potluck. I guess this potluck wasn't technically a "potluck" because we definitely didn't bring food or even cook anything. We met at Stacey's flat and went to the incredible Christmas Festival on Princes Street yet again. We rode the Ferris wheel and I remembered why I don't like them. Firstly, they are rickety and creaky which gives an enhanced feeling of uncertainty and fear for one's life. Secondly, I am terrified heights so I don't know why I willingly got on in the first place. After our short ride we walked around the Christmas Market and bought some dinner (sauerkraut and bratwursts) and looked at the cute little crafts, candies and ornaments. I got an apple strudel for dessert - it was top notch. After our little adventure we all went our separate ways because we all had work to do.

Thursday and Friday I spent most of my time in the library working on my final exams but Saturday was our Christmas Party! We opted for a girls only night. We did Secret Santa, decorated gingerbread cookies, popped crackers and Maggie attempted to make eggnog - a difficult task when no one has a proper mixer or whisk. Our Secret Santa theme was naughty knickers and we all got some pretty amazing new undergarments. Everyone decided we should watch a staple Christmas movie. We settled on "White Christmas," with the dashing Bing Crosby and the magnificent Rosemary Clooney. After the movie we were supposed to make our way down to The Tron to see "White Heath" one last time but it was raining and we didn't feel like going out and about. Instead, we all donned our new panties and attempted to do the Beyonce dance from her music video "Single Ladies." There is an extremely embarrassing video of this and I hope it is never anywhere but on Sarah's camera. It is golden blackmail material so I'm keeping a close eye on Sarah and her camera. We all decided it would be a good idea to watch another movie and so we popped in "The Holiday," a film from about two years ago. We got through half of "Elf" after that before we thought it might be a good idea to get some sleep.

I already filled you in on what happened today (finals = finished!) so that means there's nothing left to say about past events. As for the future... Tomorrow us girls have decided to do dinner and then Wednesday is, sadly, our final potluck. I can't believe how fast time has flown! I'm going to make these last few days really amazing. All I can say is thank God my finals are done so I can enjoy my last week here!

Stacey, Maggie and Kara on the Ferris Wheel ride. You can't really tell in this picture but Maggie was absolutely terrified... but I don't think we'd actually started going yet.

The lovely Christmas decorations Kara made (Stacey's head not included) for our Christmas extravaganza on Saturday. Notice that she also made sure Hanukkah was represented even though none of us are Jewish.

Kara and one of the naughtiest knickers from the evening (I don't understand the purpose the fluffy pink thing). She donned another pair as a headpiece.

Sarah showed off her cute knickers from Maggie. From left to right: Maggie, Stacey and Sarah (with knickers and paper crown from the crackers).

Maggie's knickers had bows on the back!

Popped crackers, shoes, cake box and an empty plate... this kind of sums up our night. All that's missing are the knickers!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kristi Yamaguchi Ain't Got Nothin' On Me

A week has already gone by which means I have less than two weeks here in Edinburgh! How did this happen?! Really, I do need to get home so I can see my family because I miss them like CRAZY! But I feel like I'm finally finding my little niche here and now its time for me to go. Okay, well moving on to an update of the past week.

Wednesday was our weekly potluck but we mixed things up a little bit. Several of us went ice skating on Princes Street where all the Christmas festivities are set up! I hadn't skated in quite some time but I managed to stay off my butt the whole night! I was extremely proud and briefly considered dropping out of college and re-pursuing my dreams of becoming a professional figure skater. Then I realized how unrealistic this was - by age 20/21 most figure skaters are "old" and on their way out so I really don't have chance. We made our way back to Kara's flat and ate some spaghetti and garlic bread. Thursday was the day of my last official class. That's pretty much all I did.

Friday during the day consisted of me sleeping a lot and Friday night I went to a rugby match! It was Edinburgh v. London Wasps. Sadly, Edinburgh lost but they were leading for about 10 minutes. Rugby is kind of awesome. The rules are similar to football (American football) except you don't have so much stopping and, as my sister pointed out, its ridiculously more MANLY than American football. What I mean is when the clock says there are five minutes left it means there are five minutes left... not 35 minutes left. Here are some basic rugby rules I picked up on: you can only pass the ball behind you, when pile ups/tackles happen the guys simply get the ball out of the pile to another teammate (no stopping), fumbles and missed passes do not end plays, kicking the ball back and forth from one end of the pitch to another is normal, there are no "downs," rugby boys must be really built and preferably tall. Also these guys don't wear padding or warm gear. In fact they ran around in shorts and t-shirts and I'm pretty sure it was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Although I couldn't really see their faces, these rugby boys were pretty fine. We're talking extremely toned, muscular bodies. Now I'm sure once I saw one up close and realized half his teeth were missing and his face had been broken so many times that he looked like a Picasso that I wouldn't feel all that attracted to him. But from a distance they look good. Later that night Kara's friend Drew, who goes to St. Andrews as a regular student, met up with us because he was in Edinburgh. We went out for a bit and then I called it a night.

Saturday during the day we went to the Christmas Market on Princes Street (where the ice skating was). I marveled at the adorable trinkets and gifts and purchased some much needed chocolate. Saturday night we had a little birthday party for my friend Kara who was turning 22 on the 7th. I will just say that it was ridiculously fun. It was supposed to be a tacky Christmas sweater party (because Kara didn't want a party that celebrated her "descent into oblivion" - her words not mine) and for a while there was some pretty tacky attire. I think fun was had by all. Sunday was Kara's actual birthday. Since none of us had fully recovered from the night before by lunchtime (if you were me then you weren't even awake by lunchtime) we had dinner a Chinese restaurant called Jimmy Chung's.

Monday was spent studying because I have a final due tomorrow (Wednesday). We met up with a few of our friends in the student union later that evening and had a few drinks. Then we (the girls) decided we were in dire need of some girl bonding time. So we bought a lot of junk food, put on some sappy music and chatted for a few hours. It was good. Today I finished up my final and that's about it. Tomorrow, as usual, is our little potluck which I think is just going to be us girls (Kara, Maggie, Stacey, Sarah and myself). We're going to go ride the ferris wheel at the Princes Street Christmas Fair and then eat some grub from the Christmas market. So technically its not a potluck but we're going to call it that anyway. And now its time for some pictures!

Christmas on Princes Street!

Our little group went skating! Top row left to right: Sophie, Neil, Maggie, Shay, Alex. Bottom row left to right: me, Jill, Jess, Kara. Stacey and Sarah were, sadly, not present.

This is why I should be a professional figure skater. I could revolutionize the whole institution.

Rugby! That's the Edinburgh team (those people running off in the striped shirts are little kids, probably rugby player for a local team, that walked out onto the pitch with the Edinburgh players).

The guys in the yellow are the London Wasps. The guys in green are the referees. And that guy in orange smack dab in the middle is security.

Tacky Christmas sweater party! I realize I'm not wearing a sweater but I found this Mrs. Gingerbread looking dress and had to get it... I also realize its not incredibly flattering. Not surprisingly, I removed the ugly frock shortly after this picture was taken. From left to right: Maggie, Kara, me, Jill.

Fun times in Kara's flat.

Out to eat at Jimmy Chung's for Kara's birthday. We got these Christmas poppers and they had little mustaches, a creepy yellow fingernail thing and, of course, paper crowns! From left to right: Sarah, me, Maggie.

The birthday girl and Charlie Chaplin! Actually, its just Stacey.

I call this Essence of Maggie.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where's My (Good) Stuffing?

It's finally the month of December which means my days here are numbered. I'm incredibly torn about how I feel. On the one hand, I miss my family and friends very, very much and I'm pretty sure if I don't see them soon I might go insane. But I also have completely fallen in love with Edinburgh and the people I have met here. These past few months might be some of the best of my entire life - I'm not kidding. But because the prospect of leaving gives me such a strange mix of emotions then I will move on to an update of my past week.

Wednesday night was our attempt at a Thanksgiving celebration. The celebration was good but the food was interesting. Maggie's mashed potatoes were delicious, the turkey bricks we bought were okay, and the stuffing (much to my dismay) was disgusting. Overall it was quite nice but I've decided I never want to have to cook for myself on a big holiday ever again. No one can master the holiday dinner quite like my mom. I mean it. She is spectacular. We had a bunch of Brits over to celebrate with us and we forced them to go around the room and say what they were thankful for because that's how most of us do the Thanksgiving blessing. I was feeling a little bit homesick after dinner but that night when I got back to my room I skyped with my family for a few hours. It made me extremely happy and made me feel much better. Thursday we went to the dinner Butler provided for us. It wasn't Thanksgiving-y at all but I wasn't about to complain because it was free.

I spent a good portion of my week and weekend in the library because I had a very long essay due on Monday (yesterday, Dec. 1). I set a goal of words to write everyday because this weekend was jammed packed with events I wanted to attend in the evening/night.

Friday was the History Society Ball which i bought a new dress for. We - Kara, Maggie and myself - looked quite good, if I do say so myself. We were provided with a 3 course meal, champagne and a few bottles of wine and the event was held at an interactive museum called "Dynamic Earth." After our delicious dinner there was a ceilidh and then "discotheque" (that's what they called it, not me). It was a blast and it was really fun to dress up and look pretty. Saturday I spent most of my day in the library. That night we went to The Tron to see, you guessed it, "White Heath." I think our frequency at their shows is probably reaching borderline creepy but, hey, we're only here for 3 more weeks! I mean, unless they get famous and tour the world these last couple of gigs in December will probably be the last time we'll see them... ever! So I figure if there's any ideal time to be creepy, it's now. After The Tron we met up with Stacey, who had some of her friends from school visiting, at Vodka Revolution. We danced around for a bit and then we went back to Stacey's and talked for a while. When we finally left Stacey's, I ended up at Kara's and didn't leave until 4:30 am. Sunday was St. Andrews Day so there was a big ceilidh that night in the student union. There were a lot of people there and, more importantly, there were a lot of people there in kilts! It was splendid and the splendidness of it all was only enhanced by the fact that I had also finally finished my essay that day.

Yesterday and today were not particularly exciting. The most substantial occurrence was me doing four loads of laundry. I know what you're thinking. Yes it is gross and I was basically out of things to wear. Tomorrow we're having our weekly potluck (Italian themed due to a surplus of noodles from a previous dinner) but we're going ice skating on Princes Street beforehand! Ice rinks always remind me of the days when I mused about becoming a professional figure skater. I don't know why I ever thought I could pursue that career path. I'm not particularly graceful and, honestly, its difficult for me to stay upright when I'm on solid, non-iced ground and in normal shoes. Still, I'm very excited to make a fool of myself and watch all my friends do the same. Classes end this week and all I have left is a few take home exams. The end is quickly approaching... how did this happen?! I leave you with some photo documentation of the past week.

Our Thanksgiving feast in Kara's teeny-tiny oven. The top shelf is the stuffing (really gross - don't worry, I'm not offending anyone because it was store bought), the middle shelf holds our turkey bricks and on the bottom shelf are Maggie's awesome mashed potatoes.

Maggie and I relaxed while the food was cooking (really just Maggie - I wasn't particularly stressed because cranberry salad doesn't have to cook).

Everyone chatting after Thanksgiving dinner (on Wednesday). This is right before everyone felt the effects of the tryptophan.

Kara and me at the History Society Ball. Don't worry, I didn't wear the hat the whole time.

Kara, Maggie and me at the Ball in front of the "iceberg." Yes, it was real ice. The ball was at that interactive museum!

"The Flying Scotsman" at the St. Andrews Day ceilidh!

Brief update: I just left my room for the first time in several hours to grab a bite to eat and, lo and behold, slush is falling from the sky. Not rain, not snow. Slush. Seriously, it looks like the sky dumped a giant dirt-flavored slushie on Edinburgh.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We Naively Traveled to Europe and Thought Everything Would Be In English

Well, it has been a whole week since the beginning of our trip to mainland Europe and there is quite a bit to fill you in on. We took the bus to the airport on Wednesday to catch our flight to Amsterdam. The flight was fine and only about an hour long (I was asleep but this is what I was told). When we arrived our initial task was to make it to Amsterdam Central Station via the train from the airport. Once we finally figured out the machine to buy tickets (we went to the tourist information desk twice) we caught the train and actually got off at the right stop... despite the fact that we don't read any Dutch. Then we had to find our hostel. Now that was an adventure. After roughly 40 minutes of confusion and map deciphering we found the Amigo Hotel. Once we dropped our stuff off we left to go out on the town. We indulged in the Amsterdam lifestyle (Red Light District NOT included) and it was quite a lovely evening.

The next morning was rough but we grudgingly roused ourselves from the warm beds - the extremely loud construction outside the window helped - and went to our first "official" tourist location: the Anne Frank Museum/House. It was extremely moving. There were tons of original items (including her diary) from her house and the inside had been restored to look like it was when Anne was there except without the furniture, which is the way Otto Frank had wanted it to be. Then it was off the the Amsterdam History Museum which I really don't remember much about which means it probably wasn't that remarkable. I do remember that the number of canals increased as Amsterdam became a huge port city. After some lunch (and an accidental walk through the Red Light District - the women stand in the windows, scantily clad, displaying what they've got to offer and red lights light their rooms), we were off to the Rijksmuseum which houses some of Amsterdam's greatest artistic treasures including Rembrandt's The Night Watch and some Vermeer. They also had the newest piece by Damien Hirst - an skull covered in 8,601 diamonds and it's called "For the Love of God." Maybe I just don't understand modern art but I feel like this might be just a little bit pretentious. Still it was really cool to see especially because the display was in a room that was completely dark with the only light shining on the diamond speckled skull. Next up was the Van Gogh Museum which houses some 200 paintings of Van Gogh's and also has numerous sketches and other works. We saw one of the famous sunflower pictures, two of his self-portraits and many, many more incredible pieces. After this long haul through four museums we decided we'd do a boat tour through the canals because the little pass card we bought got us a free one (it also got us into all the museums for free. We added it up and discovered we saved nearly 20 Euro or about $28). I'll admit, I fell asleep almost immediately after the boat began moving and got in an hour long nap. I'm kind of sad I missed the canal scenery but I got some much needed rest. We had a hearty dinner and then we went back to the hostel and went to bed. The next morning we went to the Jewish History Museum which had some really great contemporary art about Israel and Palestine and Jews in the modern world (Mollie - this would have been GREAT for Jew class last semester). It also had some really amazing artifacts and objects from Amsterdam Jews over the past hundred years or so. We had some lunch and then made our way to the train station to make our way to Brussels, Belgium! Here are some Amsterdam pictures. None of the museums allowed pictures so all I have are scenic pictures of this great city in the Netherlands.

The outside of Anne Frank's house. Obviously, it didn't look like this when she lived there but the inside has been restored to look more like it was when the Franks were hiding there.

One of many, many canals. This is basically Amsterdam scenery in a nutshell.

The Royal Palace in Dam Square.

Extremely phallic looking National Monument in Dam Square.

The Heineken Brewery. We didn't go in but we passed by!

Amsterdam was all dressed up for Christmas!

The train ride from Brussels was only about three hours so we got a little napping in while we traveled. We opted for a cab to our hostel because it was bitterly cold, snowing a bit and we had no idea where we were on the map. Despite the fact that we spoke no French our cabbie attempted to give us advice about the city and kept saying "Bush out! Yay Obama!" Our hostel was trendy and huge. We had a little dinner and then went back to the hostel and hung out in the bar that was on main level and then got some shut eye. The next day we started probably a bit earlier than we needed. We saw the Congress Column also known as the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Then we happened upon the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. It was beautiful and absolutely huge. Then we walked on and found a little square where we bought our first Belgian waffles! They were so delicious and to top off an already great morning it started to snow! We finally found the main square where the Grand Place (not Grand Palace as I kept calling it), which is basically the town hall, and the Brussels Historical Museum, which was not too terribly exciting, are located. Within an hour of being at the square, we saw two weddings take place! We also watched the construction of a massive nativity set and the set up of an enormous tree. We decided we needed to see the icon of Brussels: Manneken Pis. Yes, its a little statue of a boy peeing and its a fountain. The Belgians are obsessed with him - he has over 700 costumes that they actually dress him in! I think the appeal is in the fact that know one knows exactly where he came from or when he arrived. Since we had basically seen everything we wanted we opted for some shopping and Maggie and Kara went a little crazy and got their noses pierced! We turned in very early after dinner because we had to get up really early to catch our flight (that was almost a disaster which I will not recount because it basically consists of us wandering around Brussels at 6 am not knowing what the heck we were doing). We finally got back to Edinburgh and I must say, I can't believe we did it! I mean, we made it and had a great time without killing one another despite the fact that we probably wanted to a few times. But it's excusable because traveling is so stressful. But we're still friends and love one another, so its wonderful. What follows are the Brussels pictures.

Congress Column/the Monument of the Unknown Soldier.

St. Michel and St. Gudula Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral.

Stacey, Kara and me in the snow in Brussels, Belgium. Did you know it's the UN's capital? Because it is.

Me and my first Belgian waffle. That look is because I was experiencing deliciousness beyond words.

Manneken Pis. Yep, that's it and yes, he is in one of his 700 costumes.

Kara and Maggie's new nose piercings! I don't know if you can really see them but they're there I swear!

I will write some more later but I'm very tired. Overall, the trip was spectacular and I had a blast... What a trip.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Impending Invasion

Alright. So for the next few days I will be in mainland Europe. I know - AWESOME! I'm trying to contain my excitement so you should too. The four of us embark on our invasion tomorrow. We are going to Amsterdam, Netherlands first. We're staying there for a few days and then move on to Brussels, Belgium. This trip is going to be incredible. I know this because we are going to make this trip incredible - it has no choice but to succumb to our will. It will be epic and fabulous. Basically, because I'll be gone for nearly five days, I'll be MIA when it comes to my email, facebook, skype and this blog. When I get back I promise to post loads of pictures (perhaps I will devote one post solely to pictures and use the other for the actual entry... sorry that was too much information for you all). Europe better watch out because the Americans are invading very soon. I hope they've braced themselves for what is going to be one crazy adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Harry Potter (NOT Daniel Radcliffe) Shops in York

It has been a week and one day since the presidential election and I still get giddy when I think about it. I think I've watched about 100 youtube videos of Barack Obama and probably about 100 more about him. It is becoming a little bit weird and I feel like I should stop or I will be veering further and further from giddiness and coming closer and closer to an unhealthy obsession. Since I didn't show you exactly what was going on election night for me here in Edinburgh, I decided to post some choice pictures below.

This was the first party, well actually the only party, that we went to. I was trying to capture just how many people were there. It was very warm from all the body heat and pent up emotion. Also, the party actually managed to exceed the capacity of the pub/restaurant. CRAZY!

Maggie and her patriotic hair. I used my former cheerleader skills to tie those stellar bows.

Stacey and the miracle laptop that kept us posted on election results while we were queuing/in line.

This past weekend we went to York, England and it was pretty great. It was sponsored by Butler but we didn't have a set agenda or anything set in stone (except for the free dinners they provided at some really nice restaurants). On Friday Stacey, Kara and I caught the train to York at about 10 am. We got into York around 12:30 pm and soon realized that we had no idea what we were supposed to do because none of us had checked our email for instructions. So we called some other people to: a) find out where our hotel was b) what the name of the hotel was and c) find out where our free dinners were. Once we gathered all the information we decided it was time for a nice lunch. We ate at this little pub called Lendal Cellars. Apparently the cellar is/was on the land of a friary/monastery during the 13th century. I don't know if it was a cellar during that time but it was, at some point, owned by the Lord Mayor and he kept all his booze there. I think it was converted into a bar sometime in the 18th century. We then made our way to the hotel and, of course, we got lost along the way. Once we got there, we settled in and I discovered, to my great delight, that my roommate was not on the trip. After Maggie arrived (she booked her ticket well before us and, therefore, had a totally different travel schedule) we made our way into the city center where we window shopped and then slipped into a pub for some hot cocoa and tourist planning before going to dinner. Dinner was delicious and we thought we might go to the movies afterward (because no one really felt like partying it up). Unfortunately the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, was all sold out and we just went back to the hotel and watched a movie on TV. I never realized how truly cheesy Armageddon is.

Saturday we decided to do a whirlwind of touristy stuff. First we went on a boat ride down the Ouse River (pronounced like "ooze") which runs through York. We learned that York often floods meaning that river rises several feet. Did you know it is still legal to shoot a Scotsman with bow and arrow in York if he's within the city walls after dark? Guy Fawkes, the infamous man who plotted to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1604, was from York. After the boat tour (which was grand but quite chilly) we made our way to the Castle Museum which stands in the place where York Castle used to be and has a huge amount of information about the history of York. They even have a life-size replica a main road in York from the mid-19th century! It was fabulous. We ended up spending a lot of time in the Castle Museum even though I don't remember much about it besides the York replica. We decided lunch was necessary and settled on a place we dubbed "The Leaky Cauldron" even though its real names was Gert & Henry's. This house turned restaurant is extremely old. The floor slanted significantly and everything was creaky and magnificent. I loved it. Next we went to an area called The Shambles. It is a very old, narrow street with very old buildings (some dating back from the 1300s!). The bottom floors were/are where the shops were/are and the upper stories as the place where the shop owners lived (I'm not sure if that's the case today). The best thing about York, in my opinion, is that the whole city has an aura of either Harry Potter or Shakespeare - and I LOVE both. Some of the upper stories of the building are so old that the lean in towards the street! No wonder The Shambles is the place where they shot Diagon Alley for the Harry Potter films!!! It practically screams MAGIC!

Next stop was York Minster, though I kept calling it Westminster, which boasts that it is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe (apparently the Germans out did the Brits with their cathedral at Cologne). We climbed up the tower, an extremely tiring 300 steps, and got a gorgeous view of York. I walked around the church itself while the other girls went to underneath to the crypt part or something. While I wandered and took an obnoxious amount of photos, a choir began to sing. I saw a lot of people crowding around looking in on the choir. They were even taking pictures. So I decided to go over and see what all the fuss was about. Lo and behold there was a BOYS CHOIR practicing for mass later that night! I got extremely excited and snapped about 10 pictures before settling myself down to listen to their ethereal little voices reverberate off the walls of the cathedral. It was truly amazing and moving. We finally departed and made our way to dinner at this place called ASK. This restaurant used to be assembly rooms for York where big meetings, socials and balls were held! The link gives you a good view of the restaurant - it was great! After a delightful dinner we went on a ghost tour because York is supposedly haunted with hoards of ghosts. Not all of the stories were very scary but they were all allegedly true and it was dark, cold and rainy outside so it really helped set a creepy atmosphere. After our haunting tour we went to the movies and actually got in to see Quantum of Solace. It was good but not as good as Casino Royale. But I'm not complaining. Who doesn't love watching two hours of Daniel Craig?

Sunday was pretty uneventful. We basically just went shopping. Maggie left us pretty early on because her train left at a decent hour (ours didn't leave until 8:30 that night!). So we had a lot of time to kill. We booked our hostels for our trip to Amsterdam and Brussels (we opted not to go to Germany because we thought we might be stretching ourselves too thin) and saw another movie. This time we saw Easy Virtue. Clearly it was a play that had been made into a film because everything was very dramatic and over exaggerated. Also, Jessica Biel was in it and she was not exactly my idea of a forward-thinking 1920s race car driver. We did some homework and then we got on our train back to Edinburgh. It was good to be back. Here are some pictures from York!

The Shambles aka DIAGON ALLEY!!! York is very busy and touristy... in case you couldn't tell from the picture.

Inside Gert & Henry's or The Leaky Cauldron as we kept calling it. The room is actually slanted that's not my shabby photography skills.

Front of York Minster.

View of York Minster from halfway up our tremendously difficult climb up the tower.

Inside York Minster.

Gorgeous stained glass windows of York Minster.

BOYS CHOIR!!! This basically made the entire day worthwhile!

Yay! More boys choir! Their voices were so angelic. I could have listened for hours.

More York Minster.

This week has been pretty uneventful because weeks 7 and 8 in the school year are the when the most essays and assignments are due. Basically its crunch time for a lot of people. I don't have a ton of stuff due but I definitely have some work that needs to be completed. Saturday is our lone night out. We're going to The Tron to see our favorite band in Edinburgh. It will be fabulous. Next week we leave for Amsterdam on Wednesday. I'm so excited! We're going to see Anne Frank's house and we're going to the Red Light District (just to look - no worries) and then Brussels is going to be great. We're banking on our first excursion to mainland Europe as a group being an extremely memorable one... I'm sure it will be.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Well first I would like to say... WE DID IT!!! WE ELECTED BARACK OBAMA AS OUR 44TH PRESIDENT!!! I cannot express the joy and love I feel for the US of A right now. I've been feeling extremely patriotic and proud. Sometimes I'm tempted to go up to random people and say, "Hey, I'm American and we just had one of the most historic elections in the history of this world. I voted for the guy who won." Thankfully I've suppressed that urge and still seem like a rational, normal person.

Perhaps I should tell you about the events that took place in my life on that historic night that was November 4, 2008. I was pretty anxious all day and that's saying something because I woke up around 9 a.m. which is about 3 a.m. Central time - that means I waited a few hours for most polls to even open. But even after polls open, you really can't find anything out until they close. I swear all the anticipation almost gave me a heart attack. I was so fidgety and jittery all day. I couldn't concentrate on anything - all I could think about was the election. Finally the first polls on the east coast closed at 11 p.m. Edinburgh time. We had gone to one of the election parties being thrown in a pub close to the University's student union. We watched and cheered for Obama until around midnight and the went to stand in line for the other election party (because the pub closed at 1 a.m. and the other party was going until 3 a.m.). We stood in line for nearly two hours but kept updated via Stacey's laptop (which miraculously got internet and we were able to stream live broadcast from MSNBC until her battery died) and phone calls from my dad and mom. While in line I was interviewed by someone making a documentary about the election. For anyone in Cleveland or near there, the film is being shown at the Cleveland Film Festival so keep an eye out. We were denied entry because the doors closed at 2 a.m. (we were literally 5 people away from getting into the building). So we ran back to my friend's flat to watch it on her laptop (courtesy of MSNBC). We chatted, watched, waited and maybe dozed off a bit until the fire alarm went off in the apartment complex around 4:30 a.m. We endured the cold air of early morning Edinburgh until about 5 a.m. and just as we rushed into Stacey's room to get the results they declared Barack Obama as the President-elect of the United States of America. We cheered, cried and finally breathed easily as we watched John McCain graciously concede and Barack Obama address an enormous crowd in Chicago. I am so proud that I was a part of this moment in history. It was a hugely momentous day and I cannot believe we were there to witness it all. How incredible is it that almost 45 years after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, we have an African-American president? Is it not amazing that about 50 years ago we were a segregated country? Yes, racism still exists and we still have quite a ways to go before race is no longer an "issue" (I hate using that word to describe it but its the best one I can think of). But "We Shall Overcome." Yes We Can and, to some extent, Yes We Did.

Wednesday was a rough day because I didn't get to sleep until almost 6 a.m. that morning. I grudgingly went through the motions. I got my hair cut in the afternoon and I'm not sure I like it that much. I think it makes me look like I'm on the way to a PTA meeting. At least its all one color now. We had our potluck and I decided to bring stuffing. It was okay but not delicious. Later that night (which was Guy Fawkes Day/Night) we walked up to "The Crags" of Arthur's Seat and watched hoards of people shooting off fireworks. We even saw some people carrying torches - real torches, not flashlights (because Brits call flashlights "torches"). I pretended like the fireworks were in celebration of Obama's victory. I went to bed early. Today was my American History 2 lecturer's last lecture in that class that he's been teaching for 37 years. The lecture hall was packed and we gave him a standing ovation at the end of class. He was talking about the election results at the beginning of class and mentioned that when he was at school in the US during the 60s he was involved "in a small way" in the Civil Rights Movement. He said he never thought he would live to see the day an African-American become president. Alan Day is his name and he's incredible - definitely the best lecturer I've ever had the pleasure of having.

Tomorrow I am leaving for York, England and will be there for the weekend. Its another trip orgainzed by Butler so there will be a hoards of Americans invading England. I hope the city is prepared. Alright... this is completely random and unrelated to anything else I've written but I'm going to tell you anyway. Today I got a compliment on my eyebrows. Yes, my eyebrows. The woman told me they were a very nice shape and asked if I plucked them. I never realized people noticed your eyebrows unless you had a unibrow or looked like Groucho Marx. It made me feel good even though it was a very weird thing for this woman to notice.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


TODAY IS THE DAY! IT IS FINALLY HERE! Today is the end of all that relentless campaigning from both parties that has been going on for almost two years! I really cannot believe it. I want you all to go out and VOTE! I would be lying if I said I didn't care who you voted for so... I won't (*cough*vote Obama *cough*). This really is a hugely historical election that we all should participate in. Voting is what America is all about and why it is the greatest country on Earth (sorry to those non-Americans). We pride ourselves on freedom, choice and opportunity - so take advantage of it! VOTE!

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Exactly Qualifies As A "Fall Food?"

I have exciting news: I'm going to Holland, Belgium and Germany all in one weekend! Not this weekend (actually this weekend we're going to York, England) but the weekend before Thanksgiving (November 19-23) a few of my friends and I will be in mainland Europe! So exciting! Most of us only have lectures on Wednesday and Thursday, myself included, so we're just going to copy the notes from some fellow classmates once we get back. I just booked my tickets to and from and I am thrilled to actually have confirmed plans. We would like to do a bit more traveling after classes end and before we come home (we'd have about 2 weeks). I only have essays so I actually don't have to sit for any exams. My plan is to finish my essays before December 5th and spend the rest of my time backpacking (more or less) through Europe. YAY!

Well, now that I've got that out of my system I can update you on the goings-on since last Wednesday. I finally recovered from that dreadful sinus infection thanks to the amazing national health care here. This meant I could function like a normal human being and not a walking zombie by Thursday. We (meaning me and my closest friends here in Edinburgh) have started having potlucks every Wednesday so that's what I did that night. This week we're doing fall themed foods and I have no idea what to bring - chili, cornbread and pumpkin bread have already been taken. If any of you have any good ideas let me know. I'm not sure if you're aware but this Wednesday is Guy Fawkes Day and I guess its a tradition to climb up Arthur's Seat - these high hills in the middle of Edinburgh that have been made into a park (click the link for wonderful wikipedia information on it) - and shoot off fireworks and basically go a little crazy. I'm really looking forward to it even though it will be freezing.

Last Thursday we went to a friend's birthday ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee, in case you forgot) and it was very, very fun. I learned a few Scottish dances and made of fool of myself but so did everyone else so it was a-okay. Friday was Halloween and I dressed as an obnoxious American tourist. I feel that night was an extreme success because I received several smiles and a few giggles once people realized what I was. Halloween was not very crazy because we left the party relatively early and instead went back to my friend's flat and chatted until 3 am. Saturday I stayed in bed pretty much all day because my heater did not come on once. Sunday I went to the library to warm my body to a normal temperature (because my heater still hadn't come on) and to do some work. That night I went with my friends to see the Film Society's screening of "The Orphanage." If you like scary movies then see this. If you're like me and don't enjoy them then you really shouldn't see it. I had a really hard time getting to sleep that night. Today was just like most of my other Mondays. Tonight we went to a pub quiz that we thought was American-themed (because of the elections) but we were sadly mistaken. We came in second to last which is worst than last place because at least last place gets a prize.

A really great picture of Maggie (in the green skirt) getting spun at the ceilidh. The birthday boy is on the left in the crown. There are no pictures of me dancing because we all ended up dancing and there was no one to take pictures! I also took a video of this dance which I'll try to post soon.

My beautiful friends on Halloween. Maggie was a fairy, Kara was "under the weather" and Stacey was the Pink Panther even though everyone just thought she was a pink cat.

Me in full tourist mode. You can't see it but my fanny pack says "I (heart) USA." I also had high white socks I was wearing to complete the look.

Tomorrow, as you all know very well, is the long awaited election. I. AM. SO. NERVOUS! Yes, nervous/excited/anxious. I'm going to wear my new "Scotland for Obama" t-shirt and I'm buying red, white and blue ribbons for to put in our hair for the election party tomorrow night. You all MUST go vote! If you don't vote then you can't complain and, more importantly, if you don't vote you'll never know if you could have tipped the scales in your candidate's favor (who I'm hoping is Obama for all of you). So VOTE! I will also remind you tomorrow... just in case you forget.